A new study conducted by researchers at the Harvard University warns travelers that Airbnb owners and users are frequently biased by racial discrimination. Airbnb, the cradle of racial discrimination, tends to judge people, according to their ethnicity, the study finds.
Benjamin Edelman, Dan Svirsky and Michael Luca are the three students at the School of Business from the Harvard University, who have come up with the idea of the new Airbnb study. The three set out to identify the rules that govern the home-sharing platform, more specifically, how hosts pick their guests.
For this purpose, the three researchers created 20 identical Airbnb profiles, with one single difference: ten names sounded African-American, whereas the other 10 were genuine white names. Thus, scientists wanted to determine whether black-sounding names like Lakisha and Darnell make a different impression on hosts than white sounding names like Todd and Allison.
Once the profiles have been created, scientists made approximately 6,400 listings for five of the most visited cities in the United States. Baltimore, Dallas, St Louis, Washington DC and LA were the places where the three scientists chose to make their listings.
The results of the social experiment have been truly surprising. Researchers discovered that Airbnb hosts are strongly prejudiced when it comes to choosing their users. The African-American profiles were 16% less successful than the white ones simply because they had a different name.
Although the profiles were identical, only 42 percent African American guests were accepted by Airbnb hosts. The white profiles, on the other hand, were accepted by 50 percent users, results have revealed.
The findings were all the more alarming since discrimination was present among all users, regardless of their ethnicity. The African American profiles were discriminated by white hosts and black hosts, alike. Moreover, biased behavior was specific of both female and male Airbnb users, the three investigators have concluded.
The home-sharing platform needs to go through a series of reforms in order to do away with such behavior. The only solution that Airbnb reps could think of was to give up the name-based booking system they currently have.
A brief comparison has revealed to them that discrimination is not possible among hotel managers simply because guests’ names remain unknown. Airbnb is currently reconsidering their profile format in order to prevent users from getting biased in any way. In the future, they plan to recreate the current study for Hispanic and Asian users.
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